X-Writers Prepare for the "Second Coming"

In January, 2006, it looked like the Marvel Universe's mutant population was headed towards a grim fate. Thanks to the reality warping powers of the Scarlet Witch, scores of mutants lost their powers. Suddenly there were less than 200 known mutants worldwide, and no new mutants were being born.

Then, just as things were looking their darkest, a new mutant baby was born. In the 2007 crossover "Messiah CompleX," the X-Men fought a battle against the combined forces of their enemies, the Marauders and the Acolytes, for custody of the child, whom many viewed as a mutant messiah. The X-Men prevailed, but the child's safety was not yet assured. The X-Man, Bishop, believed that the child would grow up to be mutantkind's downfall instead of its salvation, and that, if he killed the mutant baby, the nightmarish future world where he was born would never come to exist.

Cyclops gave custody of the mutant baby girl, who would come to be called Hope, to his son Cable in order to save her. Cable used a time machine to escape into the future, where he and the girl would be relentlessly hounded by Bishop who had his own time machine. In the 2009 crossover, "Messiah War," Cyclops sent X-Force to the future in order to retrieve Cable and Hope, where they discovered that Hope had grown into a young girl. Together, they battled the forces of Cable's old foe Stryfe and Bishop, and in the end, Cable and Hope chose to keep running further into the future.

You can't run forever, though, and in March of 2010, Cable and Hope return to the present. Kicking off the final chapter in the Messiah Trilogy, "X-Men: Second Coming" was announced today at the Diamond Retailer Summit. It's a multi-part crossover that begins in the "X-Men: Second Coming"one-shot, then runs through issues of "Uncanny X-Men," "X-Men: Legacy," "X-Force" and "New Mutants," before ending in June with another one-shot. CBR News spoke with writers Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Matt Fraction, Mike Carey, and Zeb Wells and editor Nick Lowe about the crossover.

Kyle and Yost wrote the "New X-Men" installments of "Messiah CompleX," the "X-Force" chapters of "Messiah War," and are enjoying the opportunity to help finish the Messiah Trilogy as the writers of the "Second Coming" one-shot and "X-Force." "I think you'll finally see some answers to questions that were posed way back in Messiah CompleX," Chris Yost told CBR. "Who, and what, is Hope? What does her return mean to the X-Men?"

Craig Kyle added. "Like a lot of fans, I've been anxious to finish the journey and see what it all means. This has been one of the longer sagas in X-Men history, and I think people are expecting a lot. They've invested a lot of time, money, and energy into these characters and this story. Like them, I'm expecting a big result at the end, and I think readers are going to get it."

Mike Carey wrote the "X-Men" chapters of "Messiah CompleX" and found that coming back to help finish the Messiah Trilogy in "X-Men: Legacy" has been very satisfying. "We've known that we would end up here since the time we were finishing 'Messiah CompleX,'" Carey said. "There's a lot of things going on here. You could say, we've been building to this story ever since 'House of M,' and you'll see some resolution to these big plot threads."

"Uncanny X-Men" writer Matt Fraction and "New Mutants" writer Zeb Wells did not work on the previous two chapters of the Messiah Trilogy, but are excited to be involved in bringing the epic tale to a close. "It would be intimidating, but the team Executive Editor Axel Alonso assembled to break the story was so strong. It was the first time in my life I was the least talented person in the room. At least that's how I choose to understand the terrible things Axel said to me," Wells joked.

Another reason the five X-Books writers are excited about "Second Coming" is that it gives them the chance to write both Cable and Hope, who regularly appear in the current "Cable" series, written by Duane Swierczynski. "I can't wait to see how Cable interacts with his old subordinates in the New Mutants and X-Force," Zeb Wells said. "I like the fact that Hope is a messiah who isn't quite positive what that even means. And I love what she brings out of Cable's character. He's a teacher/father around her."

Matt Fraction is especially keen to explore the dynamic between Cyclops, Cable and Hope. "You've got three generations, there, who are all a little screwed up. I think the stuff that Duane has been doing in 'Cable' is fantastic, and in 'Second Coming,' you get to see what Hope is like when she's back in her own time, where she's seen by some as the savior of her species," Fraction stated. "There's all these great expectations of her. Even though she's so young, she's lived this insane life and has sort of become this teenage guerilla fighter. She's been to some places that are fascinating to me."

Fans of writer Mike Carey's run on "X-Men" already know that he's got an affinity for Cable and feels that the character's adventures in his current solo series have made him even more intriguing. "Cable took on this bigger parental-style responsibility years ago when he founded the first incarnation of X-Force, and you see him doing that again in relation to Hope. It's brought out different aspects in his nature, and their relationship has changed as she's grown up," Carey said. "They've been through some bittersweet moments, and I'm looking forward to exploring their relationship.

"And Hope is still a big mystery," Carey continued. "She's been hailed as the Mutant Messiah, but we know from Bishop's reaction to her that she has the alleged potential to be something else as well. And we still don't have a clear idea of what her mutant power is or how it works. So what is the potential that's buried in her? And how will it change the status quo when she comes back to present time?"
Craig Kyle and Chris Yost wrote Cable and Hope in the "X-Force" installments of "Messiah War," but feel that both characters have changed in interesting ways since that story, especially Hope. "I don't know if you saw the solicitation image from an upcoming 'Cable' issue, but Hope has definitely grown and become her own person. When most of the X-Men last saw her she was a baby, and when X-Force saw her in 'Messiah War,' she was like eight years old. When she comes back in 'Second Coming,' she's basically in her late teens, so it's going to be interesting to see what her personality has become," Chris Yost said. "You've also got to wonder, what kind of life has Cable given her? How has being on the run in a post apocalyptic future world affected her? Is that the best childhood they could have given the Mutant Messiah? Or did that make her more like the person Bishop has become?"

There's been no announcement yet regarding the art for the individual chapters of "Second Coming," but Marvel is talking about one of the big named artists involved. "David Finch is drawing the 'Second Coming' one-shot!" Nick Lowe revealed. "That may be the biggest news of all!"

In the "X-Men: Second Coming" one-shot, Cable and Hope's sudden return to the present forces the villainous Bastion, who's machinations have been plaguing X-Force, to put the final stage of his master plan into action."You're going to see in 'Necrosha' [the crossover involving "X-Force," "X-Men: Legacy," and "New Mutants" which begins later this month] that Bastion doesn't go away. He's aware of things. You'll see his reaction to the events in 'Necrosha,' but Hope's return is the explosion that means things have to happen now," Kyle revealed. "What Bastion knows about, now, and what he must do, is always in flux. The actions of Selene in 'Necrosha' and the arrival of Hope are two things he can't plan for. So this is going to push everything to a head. That also speaks to why our team is going to have no time to rest in between the two biggest fights of their lives."

Yost added, "X-Force has always been the team that hasn't gotten a lot of down time. They're always going from one mission to the next. In this case, the entire mutant species is on edge coming off things like the recent 'Utopia' crossover, the upcoming 'Nation X' storyline, and 'Necrosha.' Everything seems to be escalating, and this what it's escalating to."

In "X-Force" #1, Kyle and Yost resurrected Bastion, so "Second Coming" is a storyline that provides pay offs for many of the plot elements they've been building to in the series. "Early on in our 'X-Force' run, we knew that there were certain fights that the team was going to be able to handle by themselves, often by the skin of their teeth. Bastion, though, is pulling all these strings together to create this ultimate threat to the X-Men. So there was no way to bring that arc to a close in our book," Craig Kyle explained. "Fortunately for us, the Messiah storyline and the Bastion arc lined up perfectly. So it was a marriage of events that everyone was supportive of. The last thing you want to do is bring something to an event and go, 'Everybody get out of our way and let us do this and take over your titles,' but everyone really decided to get behind this, which was great."

Yost added, "'X-Force' has had two major storylines running through the series: Bastion and Selene. And, of course, Selene's storyline is going to explode into 'Necrosha,' so the question became, how do we make Bastion look even bigger? It just so happened that our discussions about that lined up with 'Second Coming.' So we were very pleased with the way things turned out."

Another ongoing plot element of "X-Force" has been their clandestine nature. Cyclops has kept the team's existence from the other X-Men because the bloody nature of the missions that he sends them on. However, the events of "Second Coming" will make it extremely difficult to hide the true nature of X-Force from their fellow mutant comrades. "Secrets can't trump the importance of saving lives, especially since everything as far as Cyclops is concerned hinges on Hope and what she means for the future of mutantkind," Kyle remarked. "So I think that's an issue that will absolutely be dealt with when it comes to the final chapter of this saga."

Part of the reason "X-Force" will have a tough time concealing their nature is the fact that "Second Coming" is structured very much like "Messiah CompleX." Each chapter of the story flows into the next one, and each writer will be playing with their normal cast of characters as well as ones who don't usually appear in their book. Working with a larger cast can be difficult, but it's something that's become old hat for Matt Fraction. "Thank god I've got another giant ensemble piece coming out of the X-Men/Dark Avengers crossover," the writer joked. "One of the big things we've set up with 'Uncanny X-Men,' though, is that it's the book where everybody shows up. Each issue already kind of deals with mutantkind as a whole. So you'll see characters from all over appearing all over the place."

Fraction sees the "Second Coming" storyline as a mixture of both intimate and explosive moments. "Everything is building to this incredible crescendo. In between these smaller moments of Hope and Cable on the run, you've got bigger moments like Scott's ability to tap into his inner leader being predicated on the fact that Hope is out there. His faith has been rewarded in that Cable has done his job and Hope is back, but these bad guys have been lying in wait," Fraction revealed. "So each issue has a few quiet moments as well as some incredible action set pieces as Bastion's vast plan comes to fruition."

Bastion has proved to be a very compelling character for Fraction. "I think anybody that can create a new spin on the, 'I'm coming to kill the X-Men story' is very interesting," the writer remarked. "Bastion is a big character with big plans, and we've got the special effects budget to capture those plans."

Like the members of X-Force, the cast of "New Mutants" will be coming into "Second Coming" almost immediately after their adventures in "Necrosha." They might be better prepared to handle things, however. "The New Mutants will be ready," Zeb Wells hinted. "And after 'Necrosha,' they'll have a few more members to go into battle with."

Indeed, there will be plenty of battles for the New Mutants to become embroiled in during "Second Coming." "I think they've become a team that Cyclops won't be afraid to use like any other team of X-Men," Wells remarked. "Which is to say, Cyclops is going to use them to kick ass."

Wells feels that Bastion is the perfect foil for both the New Mutants and the entire cast of "Second Coming." "Like my editor Nick Lowe, he despises all mutants," the writer joked. "With their population on the ropes, Bastion will not take kindly to someone showing up who may or may not hold the key to a mutant renaissance."

"X-Men: Legacy" currently stars longtime fan favorite, Rogue, following her in her new role of preparing the younger generation of X-Men for what's to come. During "Necrosha," Rogue will fight side by side with other X-Men, and other mutants will continue to play roles in the series during "Second Coming." Rogue fans can also expect the character to play a pivotal part in "Second Coming." "You'll definitely see a number of very significant moments between Rogue and Hope," Mike Carey hinted. "Not because Hope is a younger mutant and is part of Rogue's new duties. It's more that there's unexpected contact between them that becomes very important."

Pitting Rogue against the forces of Bastion is especially exciting to Carey due to the fact that the anti-mutant crusader is a big and iconic X-Villain that he hasn't previously had a chance to write. "I think Bastion is fascinating in a paradoxical sort of way," Carey remarked. "He's someone who has cauterized his own humanity in defending what he sees as humanity's best interests. He's a very cool monster."

"X-Men: Second Coming" begins in Spring of 2010, but that should give readers plenty of time to prepare and say goodbye to the current status quos of many of the books in the X-line. "You'll see new books being born and existing books being redefined," Mike Carey said. "As with 'Messiah CompleX,' I hope it will feel like the natural playing out of elements we've been building for a long time. You'll suddenly see the relevance of a whole lot of stuff."

Matt Fraction added, "And we're not changing things because it's another crossover and it's time to throw everything overboard. This is the thing we've been building to for years. It's the third act in a story that started years ago. So, it's incredibly satisfying to finally pay this stuff off."

For Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, "X-Men: Second Coming" is doubly satisfying because not only is it the final chapter of the Messiah Trilogy, it's also the final chapter in their run on "X-Force." "Chris and I have had a plan from the beginning of what we wanted to do with this team. We knew what the last page of our last issue on the title looked like," Craig Kyle said. "This is going to close a chapter for us, and like our run on 'New X-Men,' it's exciting because we planned for it and knew it was coming. We've been talking with everybody for about a year and a half now about how we wanted to go out, and it's going to be in a blaze of glory.

"'Necrosha' kind of gives us a chance for our team to do a big fight on their own. Mike Carey and Zeb Wells have come up with great stories to connect to 'Necrosha,' but those are spillover stories. X-Force is tackling the main threat on their own," Kyle continued. "'Second Coming' is a chance for them to jump back into the larger X-Men universe and fight side by side with their friends in a larger finale. We get two endings for our team, which is the best scenario possible."

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